Neuadd-fawr

Neaudd fawr

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Neuadd fawr is described in Thomas Lloyd’s Lost Houses of Wales as ‘classically refronted mostly after 1831… big cast iron porch of paired fluted ionic columns’ set ‘in splendid isolation (with) a broad park beneath towering hills, down which flowed a cascade.’ The house exerts a romantic fascination on all who see it, ‘Today Neuadd fawr, once the mansion of the Campbell-Davys’s and their ancestors, is a dying house. It crumbles in splendid isolation under the eastern slope of wild Mynydd Mallaen, overlooking a great sweep of green Carmarthenshire land.’ The family built up the estate through, ‘purchase inheritance and marriage’ 1

In his ‘Tours in Wales’ (1804-13) Richard Fenton the poet and topographical writer noted that Neaudd fawr was the mansion of Llewellyn ap Gwilym ap Llewellyn. A grandson of Llwewellyn ap Gruffydd Fychan who was hung drawn and quartered in Llandovery in 1401 after deliberately leading the English forces the astray instead of leading them to Owen Glyndwr. This dates Neaudd fawr to the 15th century at least. Llewellyn ap Gwilym ap Llewellyn’s motto over the door according to Edward Lhuyd was, ‘Gresso pan dhelech, a chennad pan vynnech, a phan dhelech tra vynnecli trig’ (Welcome when you come, when you will stay). It is possible that the house remained substantially the old house of Llewellyn ap Gwilym until it was remodelled in the late 18th century.

The first mention of Neuadd Fawr in the deeds  is in 1611 under its old name of Tir y Noyadd yn Rhoed Rhiw Maen (land of the hall at the foot of the hill slope of the stone) when in the possession of Thomas Morgan Thomas ap Gwillim Morgan (although it was owned by Gwyns of cardigan). By a post nuptual settlement of 1682 Richard Jones becomes the owner.  At his death in 1712/13 he leaves Neuadd fawr to his son also called Richard who has a child called Joan. Meanwhile Davies cousins in Conwil Gaeo, Postuma and Richard have a son called William Davys (the form of the name he later adopted). William Davys inherited Neuadd Fawr through the failure of male Jones heirs from Joan his cousin the daughter of the second Richard Jones .  His first marriage also brought him estates in Breconshire. Unfortunately for his new bride he was described as a ‘drunken scamp’ who had to be brought to bed on his wedding night in his boots! His wife Elizabeth died two years after their marriage after bringing a second daughter into the world. William marries again in 1774 to Ann King of Llangathen with whom he has a son called Richard. They move to Neaudd Fawr on a tenancy granted by Joan and rebuild/remodel the old mansion, eventually inheriting it from her.  Richard their son marries ‘a rich old maid from Brecon’ eighteen years his senior with whom he had no children. Despite this they may have had a happy life together as he describes her in his will as ‘my dear wife’ and mentions the ‘sincere affection’ between them and of how he ‘loved and esteemed’ her, leaving everything to her for her own lifetime, then to his sister Elizabeth (who never married) for her lifetime. After this the estate was to go to William Davys Harries his nephew, son of his sister Mary, who married Elizabeth Jane Campbell in 1847 when he adopted her name so that the family were known as Campbell-Davys thereafter. During his lifetime and that of his son’s the Neaudd Fawr estate was enlarged and compacted by careful sale and purchase selling outlying lands in other parishes to enhance the central hub of the estate in Cilycwm.

William Davys Harries (as yet unmarried to Miss Campbell of Askomel) was the owner occupier of ‘Neuaddfawr demesne’ in the tithe. W.H. Campbell-Davys as he became, acquired the freeholds and leaseholds of all but one property in the main street of Cilycwm over three decades. When he inherited the estate in1841 it included 15 houses and farms in Cilycwm parish which are listed on the tithe schedule of 1843. In the tithe he was the fourth largest landowner in the area with 972 acres, (his rental charge was £65.18.0d, because he owned the mansions of Neuadd fawr, Erryd and Cefntrenfa, he had no property in the village at this point) after Lord Cawdor, Edward Pryse Lloyd of Glansevin, and David Lloyd Harries of Llandingat House Llandovery (a kinsman of the Lloyds of Glansevin).

By 1873 the Campbell-Davys holdings in the area had grown to 4008 acres and he owned every property in the village bar one. ‘Evidently Campbell-Davys’s policy ad been to develop his estate (and thus extend his sphere of influence) by purchasing property in the parish and village whenever the opportunity arose.’ 2 Campbell-Davys largest single purchase was nine farms and many of the village cottages from the Glansevin estate in 1872.

Edna Dale-Jones in her study of Campbell-Davys ad the village of Cilycwm  notes that the rise of the house of Campbell-Davys coincided with the fall of other gentry houses nearby for example the Rees Prices of Bwlch Trebannau and Prices of Abergwenlais, the Griffiths’ of Erryd and the Bowen’s of Cefntrenfa. As they experienced financial difficulties, the Liquid assets of the Neuadd estate enabled it to buy and buy, it is almost as if they were playing monopoly with property in the area, they were certainly winning the game until the 20th century.

Dai Edwards of Home Farm who now owns the ruined mansion and its former demesne remembers Mr Campbell Davys of Neaudd fawr asking his father to take over the Home farm around the mansion in 1939, it took him a couple of years to decide as he knew that, ‘He wouldn’t think twice about turning him out.’ farming under the landlord’s nose was bound to be more difficult.

Campbell Davys was captain of the Home Guard. Home farm had a servant boy called William who was also in the Home Guard. Two members of the HG camped up on the mountain every night as look out. They were given the two ‘worst guns’ in the platoon. They would go up on top of the Voel, one night Dai Bach Cwmfran took his pony, he got into the tent and tied the the line around his ankle, during the nght the pony was spooked and he was pulled out through the bottom of the tent. He had a terrible stutter before this which only got worse after this experience!

They had two evacuees one from London and one from Swansea, Gerald Brown and Ivor Strong.

Westcliffe Girls School was evacuated to the mansion during the Second World War and a few nights afterwards, possibly because they had left lights on that showed through the skylights, sticks of bombs landed in the field at the top of the farmhouse. The three big lime trees protected the building. Bombs also landed in a field above Glanrhosan and in the larch forest by Llwyndinawed where an incendiary bomb fell.

The Westcliffe 6th form once went up to the waterfalls for a forbidden midnight feast. When they returned they met a lady on the stairs they assumed she was a new member of staff but couldn’t work out why she didn’t speak to them. Later an Italian family were caretakers for the house when it was a youth hostel in the 1950’s, their little boy upset his mother by saying he had been talking to a ‘pretty aunt’ when there was no-one there.

Once when Dai was lambing, he was walking through the lawns to the big house when he saw a light going from one room to another, it turned out to have been the people who were living in the lodge, if he hadn’t investigated he would have been convinced to this day that he had seen ghostly lights. One year on the hay harvest in the 1960’s when they still had small bales, they had a group of people helping. One of them Trevor James said he would prove to them there was ‘nothing there’ in the Big House. So they turned all the lights off at home farm and said they were, ‘going over to see the ‘white lady’  A few minutes later they were running back to home farm, when asked what was the matter they wouldn’t say but they had cuts on their hands from the panic stricken scrambling over the barbed wire fence.

The Park walls came from the quarry near the waterfall. There is a pets graveyard established by the Campbell-Davys’s which is under forestry/brambles now.

The Cambrian on the12 July 1889 in a article entitled Rides from Llandovery, singles out the Neuadd fawr,

‘ the beautiful mansion of Mr. Campbell Davys with its fine park and the Vole for a background. Mr. Campbell Davys rejoices in his Proud pedigree of descent fromElystn Glodrudd the Lord of of Buallt.’ 3

The larch plantation in Cae’r Allt was used to rear pheasants. After the war the timber merchant who had bought Neuadd fawr and had cut down a lot of trees asked  Dai’s father if he could buy the Wellingtonia in the park, he offered a lot of money for them, but father resisted. The bark of this tree is used to make corks and the rest was to be used for plywood.

There were red squirrels at Llwyndinawed forty or so years ago.

Captain Williams from llandovery was friendly with Tony Armstrong Jones’ father who was ‘earmarked’ for Edith from the Big House when she was a debutante. However she never married and went to live at Abermarlais, at some point she bought the Neuadd Fawr back from the timber merchant as she had made a lot of money out of Abermarlais during the war when US army troops were stationed there and she said that when the next war came she would have two mansions for the nissan huts. She used to walk to the Neuadd from Llanwrda once a month to check on the property.

Cilycwm Show was held on the Park for 21 years in the 1950’s and 60’s, the rainy weather put paid to that in the end, there was too much damage to the pasture.

The Rhosan runs through the Park coming from the waterfalls.

The ‘Drying Ground’ marked on the 1880’s OS map was an orchard for Llwyn John belonging to David Price on the 1785 map.

A tennis court was built on top of the pond shown in the Llwyn Sion map of 1785 in the 20th c.

The water for home farm came from a well. The was another stone lined well at Cwrt Henri that never ran dry by the turning to Home Farm, once a steer fell in – there was a pump with a cast iron handle.

There were seven gardeners on the estate, the vegetable garden being on the other side of the Big House.

The bricks for the walled garden are yellow and came by train from Rhuabon in north Wales, they were brought from Llandovery by horse and cart. It has been said that there were enough people employed on the estate for a line of workers from the turning to Glanrhosan to the site of the walled garden to pass the bricks by hand, the ricks didn’t touch the floor until it reached the mason.

Dai had been told that the walled garden was a perfect acre, 70 yards by 70 he has paced this and found that this was true. When the Edwards family bought the mansion and  gardens, they cleared the walled garden of old apple trees, they ploughed and reseeded the land and found that where the wide paths in the garden (that could take a horse and cart),  and went from door to door (there were three doors) the grass wouldn’t grow as well.

There was a ‘very nice’ old apple tree and cobnuts still growing there years ago, but they never get any now the grey squirrels are so bad.

There was a flower garden in a plot of 20 by 20 yrds (the old kitchen garden, walled on two sides nearer the house) which had raspberries on one wall. A quarter of the plot was blackcurrants, loganberries.

When Dai first came to live at Home farm in the late 1930’s there were seven gardeners.

The park was enclosed with iron railings, in an arc in front of the house (where a haha might be placed) which are still there more or less

The estate also had kennels, and a gamekeeper lived in Glanrhosan.

There is a block of four fields calle Cae’rau Back

The fields below the entrance to Penfedw fawr were owned by Rhos price of Rhydwydd, who wouldn’t believe the story about there being a row of cottages there until he ploughed it and all these stones were turned up.

The Neuadd fawr mansion has been a ruin for the past forty years having been sold by the last squire of the Campbell Davys family in the 1940’s. It went through a range of ownership and for a brief time it was a youth hostel. The Edwards family now own the mansion, home farm and Glanrhosan. Home farm has now been renamed Llwyn Sion as it was in 1785 when it was owned by D. Price Esq. The NLW has a plan of ‘Llwyn John’ which lists the field names and delineates the course of the springs for the use of Llwyn John marked ‘B’ and Joan Morgan of the Neuadd fawr marked ‘C’.

Joan Morgan also owned Gwaun Rhos y Ceilogau (The Moor meadow of the cockerells?)

It was Joan Morgan who left Neuadd fawr to her nephew William Davys who built the neo-classical mansion in the 1790’s.

At the end of the Neuadd fawr drive on the opposite side of the road is a field called ‘fishpond’ there was a row of 4-6 houses there. It was lived in by Masons who used to work on the estate.

Cwrt Henri had stables on one side and an old saw pit, it also has a brick lined well with steps down into it. Dai remembers ‘priming the pump’ with a bucket of water. There was an orchard to one side of the house. Dorrie Theophilus once told Dai that  there was an old lady living there until 1925, she was a poor old widow wh couldn’t pay her rent, Campbell Davys, ‘sent her away.’ But strangely never let the place again and it fell into ruin.

On the 1880’s OS maps there are often circles behind the barns – Dai and Joan  said they were horse drawn chaff cutters, the horse was strapped to a shaft and pulley and walked around in a circle which powered the chaff cutter which was usually in the barn – link to American photo http://www.onkaparingacity.com/libraries/localstudies/view_details.asp?RefID=773

They had to cut up feed for the horses and add water to it to reduce the likelihood of the horses getting something called ‘broken wind’ where they wheezed asthmatically and were no good for work anymore.

Margaret Osbourne the niece of Ivor Campbell Davys who sold the estate in the 1940’s recollects that the pond in front of Home farm was haunted, every time the Head of the family was dead or dying the stream into it dried up. Even when her grandfather died in London it did it. The water reflected what was happening in the family. The pond was enclosed by rhododendrons

There was also the ghostly noise of a coach and four. The family used to hear it coming up to the front door and would rush down to find that there would be nothing there.

She belives that the family were descended from Rhodri Mawr (Lord of Dinefwr)

She remembers a family story that Anne King from Llangathen (William Davys second wife) was his first sweetheart, he wanted to marry her but was pushed into marrying the heiress from Dolycoed.

Margaret’s mother and her sisters had a governess called Miss hornor who was descended from Little Jack Hornor’

The family went to the South of France every winter to Menton, because Ivor’s health was delicate everything went with them lock stock and barrel, the children hated going and much preferred to stay in Cilycwm.

Interesting field names:

Cae Gwenith Issa gwenith is wheat

Cae Parcau parcau means parks

Cae’r Gelynen celynen means holly bush

Cae Barcud barcud means  kite (current name)

Cae’r delyn harp field, so called because it was harp-shaped.

Handir fawr (rhandir) portion of land

Pant y Gerddinen ‘Pant y Gerddinen’ is ‘Hollow of the rowan-tree’.

Sources:

1. Neuadd fawr Cilycwm: The Early Years Ruth Bidgood Carmarthenshire Antiquary 2003

2. Edna Dale Jones. Cilycwm a Village and its Squire. People, Property, Development. The Carmarthenshire Antiquary. 1994

3. Cambrian 12 July 1889

Mr Dai & Mrs Joan Edwards

Margaret Osbourne

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Lewis Roderick, Estate manager,Neuadd-fawr.neuaddfawr003 Picture 157